Atlanta Braves Morning Chop: Winter Heat, Spring Negotiations

Aug 17, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; A detailed view of the bats of San Diego Padres right fielder Matt Kemp (27) and left fielder Justin Upton (10) before the game against the Atlanta Braves at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

There’s still a lot happening even though baseball’s big off-season show is now over.  In actuality, only a few spectacular deals were done; lots more may still be ahead.

So here’s a couple of Atlanta Braves left-overs from last week that we passed on at the time… and there is somebody who is getting hard to ignore this winter.

Braves prospect on a tear Down Under

STAFF REPORT / ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION (DEC 10)

Baseball in Australia suits Braves outfield prospect Ronald Acuna just fine.

Acuna, who played last summer at Single-A Rome, is spending his offseason playing for the Melbourne Aces of the Australian Baseball League and is hitting .351 in 15 games.

The MLB Pipeline at MLB.com ranks Acuna the Braves’ No. 17 overall prospect. Overall at Melbourne, he is 20-for-57, with two homers, 12 RBIs, 11 runs scored, three doubles and a triple. He had stolen 10 bases in 11 attempts and had a slugging percentage of .544 and an OPS of .937.

He has hit safely in his past seven games, in which he is 12-for-26 with two homers and 10 RBIs. He had a four-RBI game Dec. 2.

The low point among his stats are his 10 strikeouts.

[ Ed. Note:  okay, there’s probably 2 questions that are relevant her about Acuna’s hitting in this league:  (1) How is he doing relative to everyone else; and (2) How tough is this league anyway?

As for Q1, the answer is “very well, thank you.”

Acuna, as of this writing, is hitting .356 with a .942 OPS and now 21 hits in 59 AB.  15 of the hits are singles, but he does have the 6 XBH noted above… and now 11 steals.

3B Mike Walker on the Aces has a 1.009 OPS; OF Roman Collins is at .851.  They are the only true offensive threats on this team other than Acuna.  They are hitting .288 and .281 respectively.

For the league, 2 batters are hitting better than Acuna:  Robbie Perkins (.400/.460/.644/1.104 in 12 games) and Luke Hughes (.392/.516/.647/1.163).  Mitch Nilsson is roughly equivalent to Acuna:  in 15 games, he’s hitting an OPS of .930 with a slightly higher average.

As for those strikeouts?  After his latest game, that’s 12 in 64 plate appearances, or a rate of 18.75%.  Not horrid.

So yeah – he’s lighting it up strong early on.

So how good is the league?

The Aces roster has players ranging from age 16 (two of them – born on the same date!)  to 34 years old.  Acuna is 19…so there’s a very wide range of talent around.

It appears that the league is more-or-less equivalent to something in the range of the Appalachian-to-Sally Leagues:  between Danville and Rome.  The difference is that Acuna isn’t going to see any pitching of the likes of that Rome roster… but of course few teams can load up on first round draft picks like that – even if when putting a stateside team together.

Either way, Acuna is definitely busting on what he’s seeing, and that’s a good sign.

The ABL plays mostly around weekends (no games on Mondays through Wednesdays) and lasts through January.

And they do have a pitching coach named Peter Moylan.

Mar 28, 2016; Collier County/Fort Myers, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia (15) throws his bat while at bat at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Study: Braves spring baseball stadium could cost Collier County $101 million

GREG STANLEY / NAPLES DAILY NEWS (DEC 8)

Collier County could build the Atlanta Braves a spring training stadium here by the end of 2018, a new study from the county shows.

The question is: Does it want to?

Commissioners will decide Tuesday whether to push forward negotiations with the Braves, who have been threatening to leave their site in Orlando for more than a year and are flirting with at least two other Florida counties for a new stadium.

It could cost the county $101 million to build a stadium, buy the land and set up a parking lot, according the county’s feasibility study.

To pay for it, the county would have to borrow the money and raise its tourist tax, from 4 percent to 5 percent, to help pay down that debt.

The county estimated the stadium would pump about $25 million a year into the economy, through hotel stays, restaurants, sales tax and short-term rentals from fans who would travel here for spring training, County Manager Leo Ochs said.

That number comes from reviewing economic impact studies in Lee County, which hosts the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins, and Palm Beach County, home to the St. Louis Cardinals, Miami Marlins and, next year, the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals.

“We visited with the Lee County team, and we talked to Palm Beach County, along with our bond council and financial advisers, to look at these studies,” Ochs said. “They all seem to fall in around that $25 million per stadium in annual spending.”

It would take a simple majority, three of the five commissioners to move negotiations forward. But the project eventually would need the support of a super-majority, four of the five, to change the zoning of the site and raise the tourist tax.

Collier County to reconsider negotiations with Atlanta Braves

ZACH MURDOCK / SARASOTA HERALD-TRIBUNE (DEC 9)

SARASOTA – Collier County will reconsider next week whether to pursue negotiations with the Atlanta Braves for a new baseball spring training complex.

Although the Collier County Commission shot down an initial proposal with the team this year, county and team officials met in June and the county began a feasibility study for such a complex soon after.

Collier County Manager Leo Ochs will present the results of that study to the commission on Tuesday.

The study concludes a spring training complex likely would cost just over $100 million and that the City Gate development, at Collier Boulevard and Interstate 75 on the east side of Naples, is the only appropriate site there “in the urban area near adequate highway transportation and away from residential enclaves.”

The site in Naples would be near the Boston Red Sox spring home in Lee County.

City Gate is just a few minutes north of the site of a private group’s proposal to the Braves that all five County Commissioners rejected in April. Since then, though, three new commissioners have been elected to the board and will consider negotiating with the Braves.

“It’s unfortunate that this has to come to a new board so early, but we’re really working off the Braves’ schedule,” Ochs told the Naples Daily News this week.

To date the Sarasota County Commission remains the only government to formally authorize negotiations with the team.

Sarasota County and West Villages developers have proposed a $100 million complex to anchor a new town center on 100 to 150 acres in the heart of the planned West Villages commercial district along the south side of U.S. 41 and west of River Road. It would also put the Braves close to the Baltimore Orioles’ spring training home in downtown Sarasota.

[ Ed. Note:  Based on what I’m seeing, if probably down to Sarasota and Collier counties for a new Braves Spring site… and frankly, Sarasota county has the lead in this race.

That county is the only one that has a dialog currently in place with the Braves.  While Collier has done the aforementioned economic feasibility study, Sarasota is several months further down that road… and right now, “several months” means a lot. ]

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